Every once in a while I like to buy a plastic dog toy for my dogs to have something new to play with. It seems like none of the toys last very long. Their favorite toys have a squeaker in them, but the dogs think that killing the squeaker as fast as possible is part of their game with those toys. So, the toys with squeakers don’t last long.
Over the years I have owned several dogs. I think that the first dog that I bought was when I was around the age of twenty-two. At the time I lived in an apartment that did not allow dogs or pets, but there had been an incident where a person had broken into my apartment and since I lived alone and was in the apartment at the time I pleaded with the property manager of the apartment complex to allow me to get a dog. Since I had been an ideal tenant for several years by then the apartment manager agreed to let me have a small dog if I took it to obedience classes.
Thus began my life with dogs. I love dogs. Many of my dogs I obtained as puppies, and I was able to have a lot of control over how they were socialized and trained. More recently, however, I have joined the crusade for rescuing abandoned pets from animal shelters, and those dogs have always presented a more challenging time to get them to learn what is and is not acceptable in my house. For example, I had recently fostered a couple of dogs that I was told were already several years old and were house pets. Why, then, when I turned on my heating pad to warm my feet this morning did sparks fly and the circuit breaker blow? Upon closer inspection, the cord had been chewed during the course of the night. I’m just really glad that nobody was hurt and the house did not burn down!
The Importance of Play for Puppies
I have always loved getting the chance to head outside and play with my dogs, and whilst I always knew that playtime was enjoyable, I didn’t realise just how important it was for canine development.
Playing helps a pup to become more socially confident, whilst developing vital physical skills that will be needed throughout its life. Whether playing with us or each other, the amount of time puppies spent getting down to some rough and tumble will make a huge difference to the kind of dog they turn out to be.
Whilst our own young may be months or even years old before they start playing properly, puppies will be playing with their brothers and sisters from as young as 2 weeks. Biting is a big part of social bonding amongst young dogs, but play fighting at this age also teaches them a great deal about controlling their urges and about what is socially acceptable. By tussling at this age and biting with weaker jaws, their mother or siblings will react to the gnashing in a way that highlights the difference between playful nibbling and painful biting. This is not just about reducing the urge to bite when playing though, but also about understanding social clues as to what is acceptable in general.
As such, when we play fight with them in later life, they will already be well aware of how much pressure to apply with their mouths to ensure that our playtime with them is fun rather than painful. To ensure a puppy is socially aware and playful without being aggressive, it is therefore important to keep them with their family for at least 8 weeks after they are born.
Whilst puppies will learn a huge amount from their mother and littermates, they will also learn a huge amount from us. The habits they have in later life will very much be formed in their first few weeks and in turn playing with them early on in a way that you will both enjoy will inform just how they play later. Whilst you may be able to teach an old dog new tricks, most canines will have trouble understanding new playing concepts once they have matured.
Knowing just how much control I have over how my dog perceives the world actually makes our bond even stronger, and it is amazing to learn just how much the way we interact with our pets will change how they behave and their general temperament. For example, too little exercise will often lead to the appearance of behavioural issues, whilst those puppies who do not get played with enough may also fail to achieve their full mental and physical potential.
Playing with animal bonds humans with their pets, and in the case of dogs also ensures that they build confidence, use their brains and bodies to their full extent and that they treat their owners with love and respect.
Of course, nutrition plays a big part too. Buying nutritionally-focussed pet foods from companies such as Hills Pets will help you to ensure that your dog is physically and mentally strong enough to enjoy the games you play and to learn from them accordingly.
I have found that the more I play with my dogs and the more I pay attention to what they eat, the more fun they are to be around and the better our relationship. Mixing up how you play is important to make sure they develop in the right way, and from early play fighting, to fetching sticks right though to puzzling toys, the more you offer them, the more they will give back.
Just about three weeks ago we brought two foster dogs into our house to care for while they await a permanent home. They had been to the groomers to be bathed and clipped down, to the veterinarian’s to be neutered, and then straight from the veterinarian’s to my place. I don’t think that they ever saw a day inside a cage at a shelter. I’m pretty sure that they went straight from the previous owner’s house to the groomer, then straight to the veterinarian, then straight to me.
For what it is worth I’m glad that they didn’t have the trauma of having to live in crates for an extended period. Having said that, it has been a challenge having them here – my two resident dogs are struggling with accepting them – one of the foster dogs is aggressive and gets into scuffles with the two resident dogs. And now one of my resident dogs is scratching and itching and biting, so I’m thinking that we now have a sudden onset of fleas. I’ve been very faithful in giving the resident dogs their oral heartworm and dog flea treatment pills, but I don’t know what has been done for the two new foster dogs. I hate the thought of putting flea collars on any dog – I’ve heard too many horror stories about little dogs having bad reactions to them. I’m going to have to look for something else.
Spay and neuter transport went well this morning. Sixty-three pets total. All educated owners happy to do their part in controlling animal population. Some (especially those with children) were teary eyed. One child sobbing, “Poor Bingley, he’s gonna miss me!”. Parent crying because the child was crying. These teary goodbyes do my heart good as I know that this is the “loved furrever” companion.
Then the feline rescue group-twenty three cats and kittens so lovingly fostered by people like you and me. All it takes is a humane heart! All fully vetted with micro-chip before being adopted out. Many times, (I have three) the foster adopts. When this happens we are lovingly called “Foster Failures”. Believe me, I’m not a failure, I have gained a loyal, faithful companion-until death do us part.
Then the dog rescue. Momma dog-appropriately named “Angel”, and her three male, eight week old pups! These guys are such snuggly, wiggle bugs, festively named; Rudolph, Frosty and Piney. Again tomorrow morning they will be back to their foster home, almost ready to be adopted.
Interestingly (and all to often), this Angel was surrendered to the shelter because she was pregnant. Of course, being pregnant and put in a “Kill Shelter”, she would be on the top of the D-Day list.
Thank goodness there are rescue groups, organizations, fosters, donors, etc…that have such good, kind hearts. Every cat and dog didn’t ask to be here and they certainly don’t deserve to be killed.
Won’t you think about helping us stop the senseless murder of perfectly adoptable companion animals? Please learn how to educate yourself, call your local animal shelter/pound. If they are “No Kill”, pawsome! Ask them how they do it, how you can help. If they’re not, ask them why? Please, join the “No Kill Equation”!